Twins vs Phillies, March 14, 2006Unfortunately the pictures are forever broken on this post.
(See day one here)
Our second day at Spring Training ended with a poorer showing by the Twins. Yet it was a more fun day in other ways. We had begun learning traffic navigation in the Fort Myers area and arrived at the complex a full 30 minutes before practice was scheduled to begin. This allowed us time to watch Tony Oliva load a tee for one young player in the batting cages.
Most of the players streamed toward field #5 for practice by basically walking right throw the small crowd gathered near the batting cages. A few players were convinced to stop and sign some autographs. Again, I felt standoffish. Although I know a lot of minor league names, I do not know a lot of faces. I mostly spent my time looking for Pat Neshek since I figured I would recognize him (in retrospect he may have been sent to minor league camp by this time). Yet some faces were obvious to me: Tony “The Evangelist” Batista, Matt Guerrier, and Kyle Lohse for instance.
One hardcore autograph hound next to us flagged down Lohse for a signature. The autographee was slow in presenting his sharpie, so I snuck in and Lohse added his Herbie Hancock to my baseball, bringing it’s autograph total to three. Lohse requested that the hardcore signature seeker hurry it up because, “See, now the kids are coming over.” My first thought was, “How rude!” But then I remembered that the players had very little time to dawdle before practice and Lohse would necessarily be disappointing a few kids by not signing for them.
I have mixed feelings relating my age to requesting autographs. I’m certainly not as out-of-place as the 50-year-old men trying to make a buck. But I ain’t no kid, either. To add complexity to this, I really have never had an opportunity to get ballplayer autographs until, well, Spring Training. So I stood there reverting to my childhood stages, not reliving my youth but living part of it for the first time. These are, of course, things that the players would not know.
We overheard that it is good to be between field #5 and the stadium as practice completes. The players would walk back toward the stadium and sign, sign, sign. When we watched practice previously in the week we went into the stadium before practice was completed. This time we went into the stadium early to watch some other players and planned on returning to field #5 before 11:30 when we were to understand that players would migrate back to the big house. Unfortunately our timing was poor and the players were long gone by the time we returned to the practice area.
While in the stadium we took up seats in the front row to the outfield side of the dugout to watch the day’s game players practice. I could handle those seats for a game! Tony Oliva was warming up right in front of us and he was jabbering to other coaches non-stop. I was only able to pick-up snippets of the conversation but I’m pretty sure he was talking up all the Cuban players he knew that never were able to play Major League Baseball. It’s difficult to tell, though, as Oliva played baseball in-between the eras of free and closed Cuba-America travel. He may have been discussing current Cuban players for all I know. I can only be sure that he was verbalizing some sort of “all-star” team and making a point of saying which well-known players shouldn’t be on it.
Eventually Oliva walked over to our line-up and began signing. He started with me, bantering the whole while. Unfortunately he was only willing to sign one item per person. I had him sign my logo baseball, though I wouldn’t have minded an autograph on my copy of Cool of the Evening, which I had just started reading that week. Oliva was pretty funny. One woman brought down some type of program with a young Oliva depicted on the cover. He brought it over to the coaches, loudly decreeing that he held a picture of the handsomest man he had ever seen. The staff laughed as if they had heard this joke more than a few times before.
I forgot to mention my trip to the minor-league complex in the previous post. The first day we were at the complex, I took The Kid for a walk over to see the young kids practicing. It was interesting to see the pitchers practicing their pick-off throws and a whole group of catchers getting instruction from one of the minor-league coaches. I then caught Tom Kelly once again hitting grounders to some infielders. T.K. was calling all the players by name and I found that to be surprising and refreshing. Just a man teaching his team.
As practice progressed, Juan Rincon made his way past our group of fans. He leaned over and picked up a practice ball. I kind of surreally knew what was going to happen, yet didn’t really react appropriately. I slowly adjusted my camera to my off hand and tried to catch the practice ball as Rincon tossed it my way…and I dropped it. We’re talking about an easy catch here. I have now relinquished all rights to make fun of fans who drop softly tossed balls at games. I’m very disappointed about this whole situation. Rincon laughed and tossed me another ball, but the damage had been done.
The best part about this whole scenario is that my younger sister hates Rincon. “Hate” may be a strong word. In actuality, and in true baseball fan fashion, she thinks she is a Rincon jinx. She refuses to watch him pitch because she’s certain he chokes every time she watches. Don’t blame her though, I can almost guarantee you she did not watch as Rincon gave up a mammoth blast to Ruben Sierra in the 2004 playoffs.
Back in the stadium we watched Mike Redmond take a lot of balls at third base. He wasn’t being completely serious about it, but the fact remains that he was out there for a long time. Redmond is nothing more than an emergency replacement at third and he was practicing in that light. He gave the batters taking batting practice a very hard time, challenging them to try to get the ball past him. In particular he was riding Luis Castillo, which makes sense being they used to play together on the Florida Marlins.
Two side-notes. It has been discussed that Luis Castillo is very much an all-around hitter from the right side of the plate and simply a slapper from the left. This was very apparent in batting practice. Also, the Twins did not appear to have a left-handed batting practice pitcher on staff. If you can throw lefty, played at least college ball, and can consistently toss strikes, it might be worth your while to contact the team. Maybe they have someone back in Minnesota for batting practice, but maybe they don’t.
Eventually we had to migrate back to our bench seats in the shade. As I said before, shade is a good thing for small children. The Kid took her longest nap of the entire trip at this game. Blasphemous, I know, but we were more than willing to let her doze the innings away.
The bats weren’t nearly as alive as the previous game we attended. Brett Myers was pitching for Philadelphia and he looked excellent despite allowing three walks. Those walks were the only real bright-side for the offense as in general the batters seemed more patient than I remember.
The lineup card gave us good and bad vibes. Glenn Williams made the start at third base, saving us from a sighting of “The Evangelist.” Williams didn’t help his cause much, however. Unfortunately Nick Punto made the start at shortstop and wasn’t removed until Garret Jones pinch hit for him in the ninth inning. Punto did slap out a couple hits, but he was able to make one play closer than necessary by sliding into first base. Coachability must not be Punto’s strong suit. Either that or the Twins’ coaches are incompetent. I prefer the prior analysis.
Boof Bonser made the start for the Twinks. It was horrendous. My understanding is that he looked good in his previous start. But watching him implode on this day made me feel for the guy as his Major League dreams were clearly put on hold for a little longer. As Bonser walked around the mound he looked to me like a right-handed David Wells in terms of his build. Browsing the Intraweb I see that Bonser actually outweighs Wells. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
Bonser gave up two home runs in his short stint. The first was to Aaron Rowand, the ball left the park over the left-field fence. It looked like Shannon Stewart came close to hauling it in, but sadly no. The second was off the bat of Ryan Howard to centerfield. According to the game recap, the ball flew just over Torii Hunter’s outstretched glove. However, I swear the ball actually was in Hunter’s glove and popped out as I distinctly saw white flashing in the leather.
As much as I don’t think Hunter should be on the Twins team right now, and as frustrated as I get watching him consistently leave runners in scoring position, probably four of the five most exciting game moments I’ve witnessed in the past five seasons have involved Hunter. And I still believe that Hunter stealing Barry Bonds’ homerun in the All-Star game is what ultimately brought me back to baseball.
An interesting development in Spring Training has been the new jersey number of Justin Morneau. He is now wearing the dreaded number 33, J.C. Romero’s old number. I think this has been an underreported story. Perhaps the whole problem with Morneau had nothing to do with off-season ailments, horrid hitting instructors or the adjustments of Major League pitchers. Perhaps Morneau simply need number 33 to regain his swerve. I will now go on record and predict the number of home runs Morneau will hit this season: 33.
Doug Mientkiewicz Justin Jones came in to relieve Bonser in the third inning. He pitched three
innings himself and his line looks reasonable, walking one man and giving up two hits. I’m not sure what type of
pitcher Jones is, but he certainly didn’t look to have overpowering stuff.
At one point Philly decided to get aggressive, sending Danny Sandoval sprinting toward second base. Joe Mauer has apparently grown a couple inches since the start of last season. Let’s just say this growth has not negatively affected his throwing motion. “Out by a mile” would be an understatement.
When the starters begin leaving the game, analysis takes a back seat to simply watching two teams pitch, hit, and field. Thoughts would run through my mind like, “How come Rob Bowen can hit consecutive majestic home runs in batting practice but he rarely hits well in games?” But then I was jolted when the announcer notified me that one of this Twins blogger‘s favorite players was entering the game at first base.
Though Chris Coste entered fairly early in the game, it wasn’t going to be easy for him to get an at bat. There were two outs in the top of the ninth and Coste was waiting in the on-deck circle. I sighed in relief as Peter Bergeron walked bringing up Coste. The North Dakota boy delivered with a solid base hit. Go Coste!
And the game was over, our time at Lee County Sports Complex about to end as well. On our way out, The Wife and The Kid got their obligatory shot with The Mascot.
We hung out near the exit of the Twins’ locker room to see what we could see. “The Evangelist” was signing in earnest. I made a point of standing in spitting distance from him, holding a ball and a sharpie, and not asking for his autograph. A couple other players that I did not recognize walked past the fans. Terry Tiffee eventually made his way out. His hands were full with a bag on one arm and a couple bats in the other hand. I did not have the nerve to make him play a balancing act just to sign my silly baseball.
Finally, we went back to our vehicle on Puckett Parkway, planning to see what players were escaping from the complex. Once again Joe Mauer was stopped and this time he had about 20-25 people lined up at his car for autographs. Mauer was much more congenial than when I last encountered him. I had him sign the practice ball I collected before the game.
As I walked back to the car I spotted Bert Blyleven walking to his Hummer. He was parked right next to our car. I pointed him out to The Wife and brisked up my walking speed. Never one to interrupt, well, anyone, I allowed Bert to get in his vehicle and start rolling away. However, another much more aggressive fan also recognized Bert and shouted, getting him to stop and sign autographs. He was very congenial. I told him I liked his ring, meaning his World Series ring, and he replied that he “liked his wedding ring, too.” Incidentally, both rings were bling-worthy.
Driving away I was ready to go back. I could plan a trip that consisted entirely of lazing at the ballpark and I’d be perfectly happy. The Wife and The Kid demand more however, and I can’t say I was disappointed at all with the rest of our trip. Mostly I’m just happy to have a family that is willing to indulge me.
So just do it, people. Plan your Spring Training excursion for 2007. It’s worth it.
(See day one here)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R PHI (9 - 4) 1 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 8 MIN (9 - 5) 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 3 PHILADELPHIA (8) AT MINNESOTA (3) PHILADELPHIA AB R H BI MINNESOTA AB R H BI S Victorino rf 3 1 0 0 S Stewart lf 3 0 0 0 A Nunez 3b 4 1 2 2 A Torres lf 2 0 1 1 B Scales 3b 0 0 0 1 L Castillo 2b 3 0 1 0 A Rowand cf 4 1 2 4 L Rodriguez 2b 2 0 0 0 P Bergeron lf 0 0 0 0 J Mauer c 1 0 0 0 R Howard 1b 4 1 1 1 R Bowen c 1 0 1 1 C Coste 1b 1 0 1 0 R White dh 3 0 1 0 M Lieberthal c 3 0 1 0 J Kubel dh 1 0 1 1 C Ruiz c 0 0 0 0 T Hunter cf 3 0 0 0 C Roberson lf 5 1 1 0 J Pridie cf 1 0 0 0 J Kroeger dh 4 1 1 0 J Morneau 1b 1 0 1 0 D Sandoval ss 4 1 2 0 J Hart 1b 3 0 0 0 J Thurston 2b 3 1 1 0 M Cuddyer rf 3 0 1 0 J Rabe lf 1 1 1 0 G Williams 3b 2 0 0 0 T Tiffee 3b 3 0 0 0 N Punto ss 4 2 2 0 G Jones ph 1 0 0 0 TOTALS 35 8 12 8 TOTALS 38 3 10 3 PHILADELPHIA 160 000 001 -- 8 MINNESOTA 000 000 120 -- 3 E--D Sandoval. DP--MINNESOTA 2. LOB--PHILADELPHIA 7, MINNESOTA 15. 2B--J Kubel, A Nunez 2, J Thurston. HR--A Rowand 1 (2) (off B Bonser), R Howard 1 (8) (off B Bonser). CS--D Sandoval. S--S Victorino. SF--B Scales. IP H R ER BB SO HR PHILADELPHIA B Myers (W,1-1) 3 2-3 3 0 0 3 4 0 T Minix 1 1-3 1 0 0 0 0 0 R Cormier 1 2-3 2 1 1 2 1 0 A Fultz 1 1-3 4 2 2 1 2 0 J Santana 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 MINNESOTA B Bonser (L,1-1) 2 8 7 7 1 1 2 J Jones 3 2 0 0 1 1 0 A Harben 2 0 0 0 1 2 0 J Mijares 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 R Barrett 2-3 2 1 1 2 0 0 T Crawford 1-3 0 0 0 0 0 0 WP--B Myers. SO--PHI: A Rowand, J Thurston, S Victorino, R Howard. MIN: J Hart 2, L Castillo, N Punto, G Williams, T Tiffee, S Stewart, J Pridie. BB--PHI: P Bergeron, M Lieberthal, J Thurston, C Ruiz, S Victorino. MIN: J Mauer 2, J Rabe, R Bowen, J Pridie, J Morneau, J Kubel. T--3:03. A--7,805.